FAR North Queensland MP Warren Entsch, who has been a vocal supporter of marriage equality for the past 14 years has revealed his commitment to the issue will not continue after the February 11 plebiscite.
Speaking to Star Observer, Entsch said the plebiscite was the closest the country has come to achieving marriage equality since he started campaigning on the issue and to not go ahead with a public vote on the issue would be a squandered opportunity.
“My commitment (to marriage equality) goes until February 11. There’s a lot of other issues I’ve got to deal with… there’s transgender issues we need to address.
“These are the cards we’ve been dealt with and for the first time Australia has an Attorney-General and Prime Minister committed to making it happen.
“For God’s sake, give us some credit, we’ll make sure its right.”
Entsch warned the marriage equality issue has reached its peak and like other issues once it hits its peak interest in it “declines at an accelerated rate”.
In an opinion piece published in The Australian today Entsch wrote: “Every issue has its time in the sun, when the national conversation is at its peak. But when that moment passes, it can be years – or decades – before momentum again reaches the point for change. Marriage equality is no different”.
“You need only look at the poll figures to see where support for marriage equality is at – 62 per cent in favour and only 32 per cent against. The issue is white hot right now, and if not resolved on February 11th then I suspect many people will feel they have given it their best shot, and walk away to focus on other issues.”
The Liberal MP warned plebiscite opponents who want to wait to the next federal election in the hopes of Labor winning and then allowing a free vote in parliament on the issue that politics is an unpredictable game and they were taking a huge risk with that strategy.
“My crikey it’s a hell of a gamble,” he said.
“I think they’ve got to be careful what they wish for, there are those saying we’d wait another three years, I’d remind them of the (John) Howard years. You couldn’t place a bet on Howard to win in 2001 and he smashed it
“If those are supporting marriage equality do not allow the plebiscite to go through, they’re going to have to accept some responsibility for the failure.”
La Trobe University professor Dennis Altman said he found it the Liberal Party would deny their own politicians a right to a free vote.
“A plebiscite is clearly an abrogation of parliament’s responsibilities; and it is particularly odd that the Liberals, who claim to respect individual conscience, are denying that to their own parliamentarians,” he said.
“But it appears the great majority of those who will be most affected do not want an electoral campaign around their relationships and I respect that.
While Entsch will always support marriage equality he has vowed not to be its “champion” after February 11, but he does believe if a plebiscite goes ahead, Australia will vote in favour of changing the Marriage Act.
“I personally believe we will be celebrating on February 11, we can toast with some champagne and celebrate that night, because it won’t take long to count the votes,” he said.